Mosquitoes are VERY important, but how much really?

As the weather has become cold, some insects have died and some have gone into hibernation for the winter. We may be glad that these mosquitoes have disappeared for the time being. These small insects are notorious for spreading diseases such as malaria, Zia fever, dengue, and Chikungunya.

We might also wonder why mosquitoes even exist. But, much to the surprise of a lot of people, they actually serve some significant purpose in our ecosystem.

As tempting as it might be to completely eradicate this insect from the earth, it’s not easy as it seems.

Read more: Ecology: A world without mosquitoes | Nature

Mosquito Eggs; roughly 4075 eggs in this shot. | Courtesy: Flickr Sean McCann

Mosquitoes’ purpose in the ecosystem

  1. Food source for others: Some species of mosquitoes can lay as many as 300 eggs at once. And, a large fraction of the eggs is eaten by predators. Fish, amphibians, and other large aquatic insects feed on the eggs and the larvae. After turning adults, they are majorly preyed on by birds, bats, spiders, dragonflies, and other winged insects. Therefore, they fit into various food chains by being food sources.

    Read more: A world without mosquitoes? It’s not as great an idea as it may seem
  2. Pollinators: This is hard to believe but a mosquito’s primary food is nectar and not blood. Only a few females of some species seek out blood to help them produce eggs. Mosquitoes while feeding on nectar allow pollen grains to stick to their bodies which they then transmit to other flowers. Male mosquitoes pollinate more than females. Therefore without mosquitoes, thousands of plants would lose a group of pollinators. 

    Read more: Do Mosquitoes Pollinate? All About Mosquito Pollination
  3. Feeds on bacteria and microorganisms: Mosquito larvae when hatches feed on a variety of bacteria, microorganisms, and algae. Overgrown algae can obstruct the sunlight from reaching the submerged aquatic plants and algae also leads to eutrophication in a water body. So, when constantly feeding on algae, mosquitoes keep a check on algal bloom and help in preventing these imbalances.

What would happen if there were no mosquitoes? 

A mosquito feeding on a marigold flower, India. | Courtesy: Abhishek727Abhishek Mishra, via Wikimedia Commons

Animals feeding on mosquitoes can find other food sources but, there would be a disturbance in the food web.

There would be more pressure on the remaining prey which could cause a decline in their population.

Read more: Can genetically modified mosquitoes wipe out malaria? | HowStuffWorks

For example, in the case of the Arctic tundra, mosquitoes serve as a major food source for migratory birds. If mosquitoes were eradicated, the bird population might drop by some numbers. This would also be particularly difficult for specialized predators such as mosquitofish which feed on the mosquito larvae.

In nature where species depend on each other because of the intricate food webs, eliminating an organism would cause a disturbance that would gradually affect the whole food chain.

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